General Application Tips for Medicine
Disclaimer: Please note that the information below provides some general application tips for applying to Medical schools. It is not an official guide by any means. The information below mostly comes from advice from prospective medical students and general online resources. The information is simply meant to be a guide and is not extensive. Furthermore, every Medical school is different, thus some information below may not apply. Finally, this guide was designed with McGill students in mind, thus the terminology usually reflects McGill equivalents.
The common ones:
- Biology-2 semesters with lab
- Calculus/Math-2 semesters
- General Chemistry-2 semesters with lab
- Physics-2 semesters with lab
- Organic Chemistry-2 semesters with lab
The not so common requirements:
- English-2 semesters
- Biochemistry-2 semesters (Note: for McGill students BIOL 201is equivalent to a Biochemistry course)
Advice: While taking electives, it is wise to pick easy ones but also subjects that show you are well rounded and have explored a diverse array of interests. Many schools look for a solid background in science, but in addition many schools appreciate a background in Humanities which makes you a more "interesting" applicant.
MCAT(Medical College Admission Test)
All most all schools require that applicants have taken the MCATs, there are a few exceptions such as McGill University, University of Ottawa and McMaster University (however since last year McMaster does look at Verbal Scores). Please visit http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/mcatessentials.pdf to look at the official MCAT guide. The MCAT is divided into four sections:
- Biological Sciences (BS): includes Organic Chemistry and Biology
- Physical Science (PS): includes General Chemistry and Physics
- Verbal Reasoning (VR)
- Writing Sample (WS)
Scores: For BS, PS, VR scores range from 1-15, for WS scores range from J to T, with T being the highest.
‘’’’Strategies’’’’ Studying for the MCATs depend on the individual. Some prefer preparatory courses such as the ones offered by Kaplan, Princeton, and Prep 101. While others like to study by themselves, since there are numerous books available to guide students through the whole process. Some recommended books: For more information please visit [clickhttp://forums.studentdoctor.net/showpost.php?p=9497367&postcount=20here]
- Biology: ExamKrackers and Berkeley Review
- Physics: Berkeley Review
- Verbal: ExamKrackers and ExamKrackers 101 Verbal
- Organic Chemistry: Berkeley Review
- General Chemistry: Berkeley Review
Advice: The best way to master the MCAT would be to know the syllabus thoroughly, if you have taken Molecular Biology, Genetics, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry and Physics, this shouldn't be a problem. After completing the syllabus the best way to do well is to practice, practice, practice! This is true for all sections but especially for VR since there is no such syllabus to complete. For practice exams, you should try the AAMC ones, you can buy access to ten exams, there are also several other sources such as Kaplan, the Princeton Review, Berkeley Review and Gold Standard.
The guidebook produced by Medical Direction (MD) suggests: It is generally recommended that your write the MCAT during the summer after your U1 year. This offers several advantages:
- By this point, the typical science student will have completed all courses whose material will appear on the MCAT (e.g. CHEM 110/120, PHYS 101/102, CHEM 212/222, BIOL 112).
- Since you’ll have taken these courses within the last two years, the material will still be relatively fresh.
- It will be the summer, so you won’t have classes to worry about!
- If you don’t do as well as you’d like to, you will be able to rewrite the MCAT in the following
summer and still have time to get your scores in before applying to medical school.
Date for the MCAT: Please note that universities will not review your completed application unless they have your MCAT scores, thus you should register for the MCAT exam accordingly, for a list of dates please visit http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/reserving/deadlineandscorerelease.htm
Do not underestimate the importance of having an interesting application that goes beyond your GPA and MCAT. Inevitably admission committees receive numerous applications with stellar GPAs and MCAT scores. Therefore, one way to set yourself apart is adding work experience, volunteer experience, musical or athletic talents which will make an impression on the person reviewing your application. Volunteering or shadowing a doctor is crucial, since admission committees repeatedly look for an indication that you have not blindly chosen medicine as a profession. They want to know that you are aware of the less glamorous aspects of being a physician. Research experience also is a good way of enhancing your application, since conducting research shows a deep interest in the sciences and dedication to the academic world. AAMC has 15 spots where you can add your extracurricular activities, academic achievements, awards and scholarships, thus it is quite important to excel beyond your studies.
The Personal Statement gives you a chance to really express yourself, to show the admission committees why and how you chose to pursue a career in medicine and why you are suitable for a medical career, i.e. your motivation. It is important that you try to make your essay stand out, do remember that each reviewer probably reads through 20-30 essays a day. For the introduction, start out with something that grabs the readers attention, an experience, information about your background and such. It is also recommended that you lay an outline for the essay in the introduction, so that the reader knows what to expect and thus can pay attention to what you subsequently write. Try to focus on few themes in your essay and develop those. It is not advisable to try and clutter the essay with your achievements, remember you will have a section to do that somewhere else in the application. In the concluding paragraph, reassert the qualities you believe you have and why they have lead you to medicine.
MD guidebook suggests:
- Start your writing well in advance. You want to have time to edit and rewrite your essay. You want to have the chance to let others read and comment on your work. Procrastination will only work against you!
- To get yourself started, try writing a long list of accomplishments and experiences. From there, you can choose which experiences you wish to focus on. This will lead you to your rough draft.
- Always check the specific requirements for the school you are applying to. Some schools have different requirements in terms of format or word limit.
- Organization is important. Make sure that your message is clear and easy to follow. Even though you aren’t writing a
traditional‐style essay, it can’t hurt to have a distinct introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Avoid hooks. Those one‐liner sentences that are meant to draw the reader in? They can be good, but they can also be the deal‐breaker. If you do decide to use a joke or a witty comment as your opener, get it approved by several readers first!
- Proofread! Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Note: These are some of the useful advice I have found on websites such as www.studentdoctor.net, books such as The Princeton Review's Medical School Essays that made a difference and Barron's Essays That Will Get You Into Medical School by Adrienne Dowhan, Chris Dowhan, and Dan Kaufman. For more information you can look into these sources or others that are easily available.
Letters of Recommendation
‘’’Get to know professors!’’’ I realize that going to a huge university such as McGill, where classes are often bigger than 500 students it is hard get to know your Professors, and even harder for them to write a letter of reference in your support. However, there are a few ways to obtain good letters of reference. Get to know your professors, go to their office hours, ask questions and discuss your aspiration of pursuing a career in medicine. If courses allow undergraduate students to be TA's, try to obtain such a position. Get involved in research, there are many ways, a 396 course, summer jobs, volunteer and etc. If you are in a small course, participate in class, make sure the professor or the TA knows you and your work, this is specially true for lab courses where a TA might be able to observe your work closely. Once you know who should ask, give them at least a month’s notice that you will be asking for a letter of reference.
All Medical Schools require that you attend an interview in person. After you have been selected for an interview, the admission decision relies heavily on your interview, and thus it is imperative to perform well.
There are many resources available that help you prepare for an interview. McGill Career Planning Service offers mock interviews and training session. You can also look into admission consultants you will be able to prep you for interviews. And lastly practice! With friends, family or teachers, after receiving their feedback look into how you can improve from their criticism.
Choosing Medical Schools
- For Canadian Medical Schools it is important to keep in mind that some Medical Schools give preference to in-province students such as McGill. Therefore, it is important to look into each individual university's preference. For Ontario Medical schools, applications are handled by OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service), for more information on when application opens and when they are due please [clickhttp://www.ouac.on.ca/omsas/here]
- For American Medical Schools, one good resource is MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements). MSAR has a list of all American and Canadian Medical Schools. MSAR reports on the Average MCAT, GPA, number of applications, number of acceptances, number of international or out of state applicants admitted and many other very useful information. From this book, you will be able to narrow down which universities you can apply (for example there are many schools that do not accept International applicants), which schools you are competitive for and etc.
- To apply to any U.S medical schools you have to apply through AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service). At first, you complete a Primary Application, which includes your Personal Statement, a section where you include all your Extracurricular Activities, your Official Transcript and typing in your course work manually as well. You will have to pay an application fee for the Primary Application which depends on how many schools you apply to. There is no limit to how many schools you apply to, however as you can imagine it is quite expensive to apply so try to be reasonable with the number of schools you apply to.
- After AMCAS verifies your Primary Application and sends it off to the schools, each school will send you their Secondary Applications. This includes essays or simply answers to a few questions such as describe your involvement in extracurricular activities, why did you choose School X and your personal background. At this point you will have to pay another application fee for your Secondary Application. You will also have to submit your Letters of Reference at this point, this is also done through AMCAS. You simply ask you referee to send their letters to AMCAS, you then assign these letters to your desired schools and AMCAS will send them accordingly.
- After you submit your Secondary Application, the admission panel reviews your application and then you will be invited for an interview.
- It is highly recommended that you apply as early as possible. Especially for American Medical Schools who admit via a rolling basis, thus early applicants are inevitably looked on more favourably.
- If you are interested in applying to International Medical Schools, which might be less competitive than American or Canadian Medical Schools, I would encourage you to look at the list of International Medical Schools on RedBooks. By far the common choices among Canadian Students have been Medical Schools in the Caribbean and Ireland. Keep in mind that after obtaining a foreign MD you might face some difficulties while practicing in Canada, and therefore your should look into the procedure of gaining a residency after completing your medical education abroad.
Interested in learning about medical school admission process? From entrance requirements to being an IMG (international medical graduate), you can find everything in the MD guidebook. Please visit http://md.sus.mcgill.ca/ and click on “Guidebook to a career in medicine.”